15 Delicious Hot Chocolate Hacks That are Over-the-Top Decadent

Rich hot chocolate is the most compelling reason to endure winter’s sting and chill.

What's better than a steaming mug of thick, creamy hot chocolate on a chilly day? Not much—except maybe a mug scented with cardamom, cinnamon, and other chai spices; a grown-up version spiked with amaretto and sea salt; a frozen hot chocolate milkshake; or a red velvet rendition. Can't decide? You don't have to—throw together a hot chocolate bar and serve them all.

First things first: There is a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. The former (also known as drinking chocolate) is made from solid semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate; sometimes with an addition of cocoa powder, milk, and heavy cream, with perhaps a little sugar or vanilla extract. The latter is made from cocoa powder, sugar, and hot milk or water.

Start with a master recipe for rich and chocolatey hot chocolate, and then add a few of our favorite indulgent upgrades—all of which are as easy to make as they are deliciously decadent. Because life is too short to settle for a lukewarm mug of microwaved pre-made cocoa mix.

RELATED: 11 Hot Drink Recipes That'll Warm You Up This Winter

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Frozen Hot Chocolate Milkshake

Allow your hot chocolate to cool to room temperature, pour evenly into an ice cube tray, and then place it in the freezer to make hot chocolate ice cubes. Once solid, drop the cubes into a blender, adding an extra splash of milk (or ice cream) and chocolate. Whirl until creamy. Serve with a straw and top with chocolate sprinkles.

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Broiled Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

Fill an oven-safe mug with hot chocolate and a generous amount of marshmallows. Place the mug under your oven's broiler, but leave the door open to avoid burning the marshmallows and watch as they toast and start to melt (this happens quickly). Once they're a nice golden brown, remove the mug from the oven with oven mitts.

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Mocha Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Before serving, add 2 ounces espresso plus an extra sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon to each mug of hot chocolate.

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Pumpkin White Chocolate

Start with a mug of hot chocolate, and add ½ cup pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and ¼ cup white chocolate chips. Stir until all ingredients have dissolved and the mixture is thick and evenly combined.

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Hot Chocolate Eggnog

The ultimate hot holiday dessert drink: To your favorite hot chocolate, add an equal part warmed eggnog.

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Red Velvet Hot Chocolate

Replace the semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips in the master recipe with white chocolate chips, and then stir in 2 ounces cream cheese, a splash of heavy cream, and 4 drops red food coloring.

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Chai Spiced Hot Chocolate

Starting with the master hot chocolate recipe; add two pods star anise, 10 cracked cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks, ¼ teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 6 ounces strong black tea, and 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar. Simmer gently without letting the mixture come to a boil, and then use a fine mesh sieve to strain the spice solids before serving.

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Mint Chocolate Affogato

Drop a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream in a small bowl, pour hot chocolate over the ice cream, and then finish with whipped cream.

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Spicy Hot Chocolate

To the master hot chocolate recipe, add ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, 2 broken cinnamon sticks, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Simmer gently 10 minutes and then discard the cinnamon sticks. To kick it up a notch, add an ounce of reposado tequila to each mug.

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Peanut Butter Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

Stir a tablespoon of peanut butter into each mug of hot chocolate until dissolved, and then top with a scoop of marshmallow fluff or marshmallows.

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Salted Almond Hot Chocolate

Add an ounce of Amaretto liqueur and a pinch of sea salt to each mug. Stir and serve.

RELATED: How To Make a Classic Amaretto Sour

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Hot Chocolate Float

Plunk a scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream into your mug of hot chocolate, and finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and whipped cream.

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Nutella Hot Chocolate

Add a spoonful of Nutella to each mug of hot chocolate, and stir until melted.

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Candy Cane Hot Chocolate

Coat the inner and outer rim of an empty mug with marshmallow fluff, and then dip it into crushed candy canes. Next, fill with hot chocolate and finish with a candy cane garnish.

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Stout Hot Chocolate

Warm a stout beer (such as Guinness) in a small saucepan, and then add 2 ounces to each mug. Top with a splash of heavy cream.

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